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Seniors named finalists for 23rd annual Ex.C.E.L. Awards

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

LAWRENCE — Ten finalists have been selected for the 23rd annual Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards at the University of Kansas.

The finalists, all seniors, will participate in the Homecoming parade at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, along Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence.

Two winners, one male and one female, will be announced during halftime of the KU-Texas Tech homecoming football game Saturday, Oct. 5, at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is 11 a.m.

The Ex.C.E.L. Award provides an annual $500 scholarship to two students. The winners will plan the Blueprints Leadership Conference next spring in conjunction with KU’s Student Involvement and Leadership Center.

Nominees were selected on the basis of leadership, effective communication skills, involvement at KU and in the Lawrence community, academic scholarship and ability to work with a variety of students and organizations. The selection committee included representatives from Student Union Activities, the Board of Class Officers, the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, and the Homecoming Steering Committee.

The award was established and first given in 1991 to recognize one male and one female student for achievement and to add student interest to annual Homecoming festivities. 
Names of winners are listed on a plaque on the fifth level of the Kansas Union.

To be eligible, applicants must be full-time undergraduate students with an overall grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. Each finalist completed an application and participated in an interview. The finalists and their academic majors are listed below, along with highlights of their campus achievements. Eight of the finalists are in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and are listed in bold.

In-state finalists

Johnson County

From Lenexa

Danny Sanchez, Spanish and global and international studies, minoring in business and leadership studies, is a founding father of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He has served as historian on the executive board of ATO for two years. He also has participated in the Homecoming Steering Committee, Dean’s Student Advisory Council, KU Dance Marathon, Alternative Breaks, Center for Community Outreach, Peer Leadership Consultants, Hispanic American Leadership Organization, Student Union Activities and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Shawnee County

From Topeka

Will Dale, English, is the executive director of the Center for Community Outreach, an organization that provides service opportunities to several thousand KU students annually. He served as a Kansas Health Foundation Undergraduate Fellow with the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development for two years. In addition, he was a National Undergraduate Fellow with Young People For, a national network of young people who are working for social change in their communities.

Bryne Gonzales, speech-language-hearing, is a founding father and current vice president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He has served as a Hawk Link Guide, Colors of KU student facilitator and Jana Mackey Distinguished Lecture Series member. He recently received an Undergraduate Research Award for his research on cochlear implants.

Addison Keegan-Harris, applied behavioral science, minoring in leadership studies, served two years as executive director of the National Residence Hall Honorary. On campus, she worked as a resident assistant in GSP and Corbin halls and was a presenter at the 2012 Kansas Association of Resident Assistants Conference. She also welcomed new students to KU as an orientation assistant and ’Hawk Week leader. She founded the Applied Behavioral Science Undergraduate Student Organization and currently serves as secretary. She also co-chairs the Outstanding Educator Award for Mortar Board, and she is vice president of Peer Leadership Consultants.

Natalie Scott, psychology and pre-occupational therapy, served on the executive board of Alternative Breaks and coordinated freshman orientation for two summers. She is a student senator and was named a University Scholar and a KU Woman of Distinction.

Sedgwick County

From Wichita

Nicole Nunes, journalism, is a 2013-’14 KU Woman of Distinction and president of Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She also serves as vice president of the Journalism Student Ambassador Program and marketing coordinator for the Big Event. She is a member of Mortar Board and the University Honors Program.

Wabaunsee County

From Alma

Jill Wenderott, physics, a 2013-’14 KU Woman of Distinction, is a Watkins-Berger scholar and member of Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Pi Sigma honor societies. She is also a member of the University Honors Program and was selected as a University Scholar in her sophomore year. She has participated in the Center for Community Outreach (CCO) as a volunteer coordinator and executive director and currently is an advisory board member. As executive director, she reinstated the CCO internship program to connect KU students with local nonprofits. She also oversaw the distribution of 5,000 donated products to the community during the holiday season. Wenderott served as an outreach committee member and volunteer for the Big Event at KU. She also participates in a condensed matter physics research group and received a 2013 Undergraduate Research Award to study the development of heterostructures. 

Out-of-state finalists

From Altus, Okla.

Alexandra Null, applied behavioral science, minoring in leadership studies, leads her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, as president and is a member of the Mortar Board Honor Society. She is a peer leadership consultant and an intern in the Student Involvement & Leadership Center. For KU Hillel, she serves as leadership development intern. She has served on the Homecoming Steering Committee as the community outreach chair and has attended several campus leadership conferences, including LeaderShape, Blueprints and Colors of KU.

From New Haven, Ind.

Preston Barr, business management and leadership, is a third-year resident assistant at Grace Sellards Pearson residence hall and a recipient of the Returning RA of the Year award. He also serves as chaplain for the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. He is the vice president of Student Advocates for Financial Education and is a senior peer educator in Student Money Management Services.

From San Juan, Puerto Rico

Esteban Marquez, human biology, minoring in leadership studies, is a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, the Homecoming Steering Committee, KU Dance Marathon, the Hispanic-America Leadership Organization and The Big Event, an annual day of volunteer service in the spring to unite the KU and Lawrence communities.